Eurostars Funding Grant for Developing a Novel Gas Leak Detector based on Sound Mapping

May 23, 2023

Energy Robotics and ExRobotics are proud to announce the successful funding of their ground-breaking joint project, Gas LeAk robotics Detection through sound mapping (GLAD), by the Eurostars program of the Eureka network. Eurostars is part of the European Partnership on Innovative SMEs. The partnership is co-funded by the European Union through Horizon Europe.The project was awarded the funding grant after a highly competitive selection process involving proposals from top European innovators.

The funding will support the two robotics startups to further advance their market leading innovative robotic inspection technologies by developing a novel modular gas leakage detector sensor based on sound mapping technology, installed on an autonomous robot to reliably detect and pinpoint leakage location. This will be a first of its kind with the technical requirements to function in explosive atmospheres, such as those in chemical and oil and gas industries, thus improving working conditions, minimizing explosions risks, and reducing fugitive emissions.  

Urgent action needed to curb emissions

Industrial environments such as those in the gas, oil and chemical industries can often be hazardous and prone to the risk of gas leakages. Gases in these environments can range from lighter than air explosive gases (like methane and hydrogen) to heavier than air deadly gases like hydrogen sulfide. Leakages in these facilities lead to the exposure of onsite personnel to health issues or the risk of explosion. Importantly, these gas leaks also contribute massively to greenhouse emissions.

The International Energy Agency estimates that the oil and gas sector accounted for around 70 Mt of methane emissions in 2020, which is more than 5% of the global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.  Over a period of 20 years, the warming capacity of methane is over 80 times more than that of CO2. Thus, making it a major contributor to global warming. The oil and gas sector is one of largest man-made emitters of methane accounting to about a quarter of the total emission.

Furthermore, a rebound in fossil fuel production has seen global methane emissions from oil & gas operations increase by 5% in 2021. Urgent action is needed to curb the rise of methane emissions.

Current solutions fall short

Early gas leak detection is critical for mitigating safety risks and reducing the emission of harmful gases. Current leakage detection sensors can either only detect concentration levels without pinpointing the leakage location (as in the case of electrochemical sensors) or they are cost-prohibitive and can visualize gas leaks, but only with so-called hot working permits for operation in explosive atmospheres (as in the case of thermal imaging cameras).

Autonomous robots can perform regular inspection rounds and take human workers out of harm's way in these hazardous and potentially explosive environments. However, integrating these sensors to robots brings a new set of challenges. This is due to the inherent incompatibility of electronic equipment with explosive atmospheres. Robot and sensor technologies need to be certified based on well-framed technical standards (such as EU ATEX and international IECEx) for operation in these environments. To achieve such certification for a mobile inspection robot and its sensor payload requires a high level of technical expertise and extensive research.  

Having deployed more than 50 Ex-certified robots, Energy Robotics and ExRobotics are well-equipped to tackle these challenges and develop a novel cost-effective solution that not only detects and pinpoints leakage location, but also meets the technical requirements for certification to work in explosive atmospheres.  

Gas LeAk robotics Detection through sound mapping (GLAD)

The two companies will combine their leading industrial and technical expertise to develop a breakthrough gas leakage detector through sound mapping. This involves an array of microphones that captures ultra-sound data emitted by pressurized gas leaks and processes this data into a visual map. Thus, identifying the leakage source and location.

Sound mapping is an innovative technology based on acoustic cameras, originally developed by the Dutch company, Sorama. In GLAD, ExRobotics and Energy Robotics are cooperating with Sorama for developing this technology further to operate in explosive atmospheres and in automated mobile operation necessary for robot integration.

The development made in this project will render a novel leakage detector sensor as a highly sought-after innovation. While Energy Robotics will develop the controlling and analysis software for sensor and robot intelligence and operation, ExRobotics will develop the Ex-certifiable hardware modules for the leakage detector. The result of the project will be a robotic demonstrator of the novel robotic leakage detector functionalities in an environment with explosive atmosphere.  

Impact and Funding

The new modular gas leakage sensor and software developed through the GLAD project will drastically bring down the costs for gas leak localization in explosive atmospheres to 20-30% of the only available and capable alternative, i.e., thermal imaging cameras.  Not only will GLAD make gas leak localization cost-effective, but it also contributes to as many as 5 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. Most important of these is SDG 13: To take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

In addition to early leak detection and lowering of emissions in industries such as chemical manufacturing and oil and gas, the new technology will play a major role in the green hydrogen market. The transition to hydrogen is crucial for energy independence and for the reduction of fossil fuel usage around the world. This transition will entail a rise in hydrogen storage facilities, where quick detection of leaks is very important for safety reasons. Thus, GLAD can make a difference not only to the present, but also to the future activities aimed at achieving SDG 13.  

The immense potential of GLAD for improving working environments, minimizing fugitive emissions, lowering explosion risks, contributing to energy transition, as well as its high innovation and ambition has been recognized by the Eureka network with a funding grant under the Eurostars program. Being the largest international funding program for SMEs collaborating on R&D projects, Eurostars receives proposals from top European innovators. The much-coveted funding grant is therefore a testament to the high impact potential of the GLAD project as well as the capabilities of both partners. Energy Robotics and ExRobotics are well on their way to realizing this potential.  

About Energy Robotics

Energy Robotics provides an end-to-end solution for autonomous inspection in capital-intensive industries such as oil & gas, chemical, power and utilities. Energy Robotics offers a software platform that brings together a hardware-independent robot operating system, cloud-based fleet management and AI-driven data analytics for industrial applications.

About ExRobotics

ExRobotics is a leading international company specializing in the development and distribution of robots and robotic solutions for hazardous environments. It produces Ex-certified robots (ATEX and IECEx Zone 1) that can monitor equipment in remote, hazardous and/or inhospitable locations.

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Vladimir Margolin
Vice President Global Sales